“I represent the ‘Others.’”
So if you haven’t gotten a chance to binge watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix-don’t worry there are no spoilers here. If you are like me, you might have been hesitant or even pessimistic about this new season-because let’s be frank, it’s been a long journey since season one. Season one was explosive and pretty much revolutionized Netflix and the art of binge watching as we have come to know it. Seasons two and three were ‘bleh’ in my opinion, hard to get through and leaving me less enthused for the following summer’s season premiere. However; season four delivered in every possible. Finally, despite the very dark subject matter that the story explores ranging from racism, over-crowding, women’s rights, prisoner’s rights, and power dynamics, I was given a character I was able to connect to on a cultural level of understanding.
Being bi-racial I of course can identify with the differing struggles that both the blacks and Latino’s deal with throughout each season. It wasn’t until episode 12 of this new season when Piper’s roommate ‘Hapakuka’ states she is representing the “Other,” during a meeting headed by the respective leaders of the divided racial groups that I connected to it as a mixed individual. The groups are separated between their leaders reflecting their racial groups: Whites, Dominican’s (representing all Hispanic’s), and Blacks and this character happens to be as they state the “browns who are not brown,” or “the yellow’s.” I thought this was especially poignant given this season explore racial dynamics and conversations that mirror that of prison life which we hadn’t seen before. While Hapakuka’s specific heritage is never given it is alluded to when she refers to her previous prison in Honolulu.
To me, she represents the underrepresented demographics that either aren’t large enough to be key players in Litchfield’s fictional prison world or in fact the “Others,” of blended cultural backgrounds. The “Others,” that cannot check a specific box of racial ethnicity because there is more than one, cannot be easily identified by their genetic make-up, or don’t represent the cultural status-quo. Orange is the New Black will always get numerous praise for its progress in diverse casting and giving women of all backgrounds varying platforms in the prison world they created. Hapakuka was a reflection of a reality that we as multiracial people know all too well, especially when we combat finding our own voice or place amongst racial groups that don’t have blended backgrounds.
It made me reflect on where biracial/multiracial people fit in clearly established sectors like prison where being a part of a group can be your saving grace. Her character played a small, but significant role in the mounting tensions growing amongst the inmates. I anticipate if they will be able to use her ethnic background to create more conversation on specific racial groups outside of the clear cut cultural backgrounds we are used to seeing as opposed to the “Others.”